Veteran New Milford volunteer firefighter dies at 69

Photo of Currie Engel
Robert S. Golembeski died on Feb. 24 at the age of 69.

Robert S. Golembeski died on Feb. 24 at the age of 69.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Johnson Photography /

NEW MILFORD — For Robert S. Golembeski, the volunteer firehouse in New Milford was like a second home.

Since the 1970s, his rare smile and steady presence were a staple there, his chief said.

The longtime, second-generation volunteer firefighter with the historic Water Witch Hose Company No. 2 of New Milford, died at 69 on Feb. 24 after an illness.

Golembeski was a lifelong New Milford resident, spending nearly a half-century serving his community. From New Milford High School to the Water Witch firehouse, he was a familiar presence around the town.

“Bobby was always around the firehouse, whether it was a training night, a work night, cleaning, doing training,” Fire Chief Richard Squires said. “If you needed somebody to take one of the fire trucks to a function or for standby, you would ask him, and he would do it with a smile on his face and very proud to do it.”

He continued to attend firehouse meetings until shortly before his death.

Aside from fighting fires, Golembeski for many years was a volunteer EMT for the community — serving as chief in 1990 — and as a funeral assistant for area funeral homes. He worked for Kimberly-Clark Corp., and Yankee Gas, and toward the end of his life, worked with his son as a groundskeeper at a golf course in Southbury.

Golembeski leaves his wife, Muriel, and son, David, who has continued in his father’s footsteps to join the Water Witch as a third-generation volunteer firefighter. David is now company president.

Squires met “Bobby,” as he calls Golembeski, in 1985 when he started volunteering for New Milford Ambulance. They went on calls together, and eventually, Squires ended up at the firehouse, where he’s been volunteering ever since.

He described Golembeski as “very present” at the house, someone who always volunteered to do things without anyone have to ask him. He also remembers Golembeski’s special and elusive smile.

“He would smile in his own little way, but he wasn’t the kind of person who always had a smile on him,” Squires said.

At the firehouse, Squires recalled Golembseki and his father working together, describing both as quiet, reserved men. When Golembeski’s father got older, he would still bring his father down to the firehouse on Sunday mornings for coffee and doughnuts, keeping him involved with the crew.

Golembeski was close to his son and would bring him to firehouse events, Squires said. The two would help out with the crew’s traditional chicken barbecue fundraisers, working alongside each other to greet and care for those who showed up.

“He would do his duty until he was done,” Squires said.